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Talking to Your Kids About Divorce

Talking to Your Kids About Divorce

For most parents, the hardest part about getting a divorce isn't finding an attorney or creating a property separation agreement. No, the task that parents tend to find the most challenging is talking to their kids about the divorce.

If you are in the process of separating from your spouse and have been trying to figure out the best way to discuss the subject with your children, you may find the following guide helpful.
Choose the Right Time
Telling your children that you will be getting a divorce is not something that you should rush. As such, you would be wise to avoid beginning the conversation a few minutes before the kids leave for school or head to soccer practice. Instead, you should choose a date and time that will allow your kids to process the news at their own pace - even if it takes several hours.

Saturday mornings are often the best time to discuss an upcoming divorce. By starting the conversation at the beginning of the weekend, you will give your kids a couple of days to work through the matter before going back to school on Monday.

Talk to Your Children as a Group
If you have multiple children, it is generally advisable to discuss the divorce with all of them at the same time. Should you choose to talk with them on a one-to-one basis, you run the risk of them talking about the separation among themselves before you have a chance to deliver the news to everybody.

Having this difficult conversation with all of your kids at once also allows them to use each other for emotional support, if necessary.
Walk Your Kids Through Your Plan Moving Forward
Once you tell your children that you and your partner will be separating, they will probably have a lot of questions. In particular, they may wonder if one of you will be moving out or if they will be going to a new school. 

When answering their questions, you should try to be as honest and detailed as possible. Take the time to walk them through exactly how their lives are likely to change as a result of your divorce.

Avoid Discussing Complex Legal Issues
Generally speaking, when discussing your divorce with your children, it is best to keep things relatively simple. Tell them what is happening and how their lives will change as a result. 

Do not talk to them about the details of any parenting agreements or alimony agreements. Discussing these complicated legal issues with your kids is only likely to confuse or worry them.

Let Your Children Know That You Will Always Be There for Them
When you tell your kids that you will be getting a divorce, they may worry about how often you will be there for them. During your conversation, you should let them know that this is not something they need to worry about.

Assure your children that you will always be there when they need you. Let them know that, even if you no longer live in the same house, they can always call or text whenever they want to speak to you.

Avoid Displaying Animosity and Assigning Blame
As you work through your divorce, there may be some animosity between you and your spouse. However, you should avoid displaying this anger in front of your children - and you certainly shouldn't blame your spouse for causing the divorce.

If your kids notice you becoming angry or annoyed as you talk to them about the divorce, they are likely to become even more stressed out about the situation. To stop them from panicking, try to remain relatively neutral throughout the discussion.

Have a Second Conversation in a Few Days
When you tell your kids about your divorce, they may be too shellshocked to fully comprehend the situation. As a result, they may not ask many questions during the conversation.

To make sure that they fully understand what is happening, you should talk to them for a second time a few days after your initial chat. In doing so, you will give them a chance to ask any questions that may have popped into their heads since you first spoke.

Watch Out for Changes in Behavior
It is not unusual for children to act out in the weeks and months after they find out about the separation of their parents. In younger children, this bad behavior tends to be most noticeable in school. Shortly after you talk to your kids about your divorce, you may notice that their grades begin to drop or they are getting into trouble with their teacher.

For teenagers, changes in behavior can be even more serious. In many cases, their aggressive or anti-social behavior will get them suspended from school. In others, it may cause them to get arrested and spend time in a juvenile correction facility.

If you would like to reduce the risk of your children getting into trouble after learning about your divorce, you would be wise to keep a close eye on them for at least a few months. By doing so, you can address any changes in their behavior before it becomes a larger issue.

Discussing your divorce with your children is always challenging. However, if you follow the tips outlined above, you can make the process easier on them and you.

PujaSachdev's picture

Puja A. Sachdev is a top-rated San Diego divorce attorney and family law mediator who focuses on family law, child support, and divorce cases and is a Certified Family Law Specialist by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. She received her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law at San Diego, graduating cum laude with her Juris Doctorate. She is admitted to practice law in California and the U.S. District Court, Southern District of California.